• Ava Gardner Museum hopes to acquire Show Boat costume

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    November 30, 2011

    SMITHFIELD - For the next few days, the Board of Directors and staff at the Ava Gardner Museum will be sitting on pins and needles in anticipation of “Debbie Reynolds The Auction Part II.”  The auction, scheduled for December 3 in Beverly Hills, California, offers several items of interest to the museum, most notably a dress from Show Boat. 

    Past visitors may remember seeing the dress on display, as it was included in a Show Boat exhibit for the 2005 Ava Gardner Festival.  The Board hopes to purchase the dress and bring it back to the Museum to share with future visitors.

    Worn by Ava Gardner as “Julie LaVerne” when the sheriff comes to arrest her in Show Boat, this period dress was designed by Walter Plunkett.  Black sequins in a diamond pattern decorate the dress, of which the original green satin has turned to golden yellow.  Also present is a handwritten label, “1520 7932 Ava Gardner”.

    At “Debbie Reynolds The Auction Part I,” the Museum bid on the nurse’s uniform that Ava wore in The Sun Also Rises, but was not able to secure the outfit.  The Sun Also Rises uniform, expected to sell for $2,000-$3,000, was purchased for $4,305.   The Museum previously contacted Ms. Reynolds about loaning these items to the museum or selling them privately, but she turned down the museum.

    The Board of Directors will bid for the Show Boat costume by telephone on December 3.  The Museum recently received donations of $1,000 from an Ava Advocate and $500 from a local supporter to help with the acquisition of the costume, which is expected to sell for $4,000-$6,000.  The Museum Board hopes to raise $6,000-7,500 through donations.

    If the Board is not able to acquire the Show Boat costume, it will turn to the tan wool safari outfit designed by Charles Le Maire, which Gregory Peck donned as “Harry Street” in Snows of Kilimanjaro.  A great friend of Ava’s, Peck was also her co-star in On the Beach and Snows of Kilimanjaro.  The Museum will honor Peck and his friendship with Ava at the 2012 Ava Gardner Festival, scheduled for October 5-7.

    The other auction item with ties to Ava is a set of four French screen panels used in numerous MGM productions, including The Great Sinner, where the panels appeared in the private gambling room.

    If you would like to support the Museum’s efforts to acquire this rare piece of Hollywood history, please contact Todd Johnson, Executive Director, at (919) 934-5830.  
    Rick Childrey, President
    (919) 934-9166

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